An Unforgettable Year at the College of William and Mary, USA

3rd Year student Arran studied at The College of William and Mary in America this year. He had some incredible experiences that he would like to share – including meeting Barack Obama! Here’s what he had to tell us…

  • Where are you studying and why did you choose that university?

I studied at the College of William and Mary Virginia, USA. I chose it mainly based on academic expectations – William and Mary is really highly regarded in the US and I found that to be pretty well matched by reality. They give you a lot of work but the lecturers are generally fantastic and you learn a ton.

  • What modules did you pick and how have you found them?

Being an economics student I did a lot of higher-level modules in econometrics – not a lot of universities offer these modules to undergraduates, so if someone is looking to really develop their quantitative skills in economics then I’d really recommend it. I also took some mathematics and some finance classes in the Miller Business School, the final finance class in Equity Markets was great and part of the grade was based on how well we managed a portfolio of investments.

  • What 3 things did you wish you had known before going away?

I had a fantastic year so I’m not sure I have any regrets about not preparing enough.

  • How did you find accommodation for your stay? Are you staying in University halls or private accommodation?

Accommodation was provided by the college to all the international exchange students, it was pretty nice in general but be prepared to have a roommate, single rooms in college in America are very rare. Fortunately the college is pretty open to you moving between rooms throughout the year so you can move in with friends you find there, or you can move into fraternity housing if you decide to join Greek life, some of the original Greek organisations started at the College of William and Mary so you might want to consider getting involved there!

  • Have you managed to do any extra travelling whilst abroad, and if so where?

I travelled mainly up the east coast, I spent Thanksgiving in Philadelphia with a friend who took me back for the break. If you haven’t had any experience of it before the Thanksgiving holiday is at the beginning of November so it’s a perfect small break just before you go back to classes for final exams. If you can find someone who’s willing to bring you home with them definitely do it, I found it was one of my best experiences of America, the big turkey dinner, the football game and just meeting Americans outside of college all makes a great holiday.

  • What are your best 3 memories of your year abroad?
  1. I’ve made some incredible friends, in the final week I was saying goodbye to everyone and realising how close I’d become to so many people I wouldn’t have ever met if it wasn’t for my exchange year; that’s got to be my best memory.
  2. Second is certainly campaigning for Obama’s re-election and meeting him at a party headquarters in Williamsburg. He was prepping for the second debate but took some time out to bring pizza to twelve campaign fellows including myself, meeting a sitting American President and talking candidly with him about the election is an experience I will never forget. 
  3. The third best memory is a collective one, the College of William and Mary has some fantastic traditions which I really enjoyed. At the beginning of the year you walk through the doors of the Wren building, which is one of the oldest buildings in the United States, and on the other side covering the lawn is the whole college cheering and welcoming you to the university. At the end of the year you have another ceremony at the Wren building where everyone leaving the college, graduating seniors and exchange students, congregate by the doors at night, light candles, hear speeches from the Chancellor of the college, and sing the Alma Mater. These traditions and many others throughout the term are so warm and bring the small college together in a way we don’t really experience at such a large university as Exeter, together the milestones of the year make up my last best memory.
  • Have you learnt a foreign language?

Unfortunately not, I studied exclusively for my degree in economics.

  • Tell us what you do in your spare time – e.g. volunteering, part-time jobs, social life, clubs & societies

At the college I joined the debating team, campaigned for Obama’s re-election and became an Organising Fellow (responsible for organising days of campaigning), tutored at a middle school and joined the Amnesty international team.

  • Your top 3 travel tips for your host country
  1. Take every opportunity to travel in the country, don’t go to the same places again but hit out for new cities, try and see how many states you can visit!
  2. Secondly, flying domestically is often the much better choice in America, the train system (Amtrak) is very slow and is not at all frequent.
  3. Thirdly when flying out of Washington D.C the airport code DCA is not Dulles but Reagan, as I found out when I arrived for a flight and tried to check in at Dulles! 
Have you been inspired to study in America? First years – don’t forget to start researching countries and fill in the Host Country Form on ELE asap (deadline 12th July!)
If you want any more advice about studying in America, contact us at .

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